Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Dom Martin - Buried In The Hail

Personality. Originality. Talent.
There isn’t a simple formula for making standout, attention-grabbing music, but I reckon those three qualities will probably get you a long way – and Dom Martin has them in spades, as his third album Buried In The Hail demonstrates.
This isn’t yer common-or-garden blues-rock album.  Dom Martin goes his own way, right from the start.  ‘Hello In There’ is a dreamy, zephyr-like opener, Martin’s folkie acoustic guitar picking
Dom Martin gets electrified
Pic by Tony Cole
conjuring up a pastoral mood, embellished by faint background noises like children’s voices in a playground.  And he doesn’t feel the need to make a grand statement at the other end of the album either, where ‘Laid To Rest’ is the dying fall its title would suggest.  Over minimalist tapped out percussion, punctuated by an unusual harp-like springing noise, Martin picks away at a sparse, repetitive guitar line, with a tone that’s almost banjo-like in its brittle steeliness.  And that’s all folks.
As on his previous album A Savage Life, at times he draws on some John Martyn-like Celtic folk stylings in his own distinctive way, as on ‘Government’ and ‘The Fall’.  The former marries glistening acoustic guitar chords and a halting drumbeat to Martin’s gruff but sensitive vocal, as he intones a weary, mantra-like lyric about how “It’s time to call it a day” until the song stalls like an unwound clock.  Meanwhile ‘The Fall’ progresses from isolated, frost-bright strums of guitar into glittering picking like a winter stream, accompanying Martin’s patient, drawn-out vocals.  Has he overdubbed guitar parts to create the intricate guitar-scape that develops?  I dunno, but it sure sounds like there’s a whole lot of picking going on.
Things get more obviously bluesy on a few tracks.  ‘Daylight I Will Find’ has a rootsy vibe, as Martin rolls out tumbling acoustic blues guitar over a simple thudding beat, creating a swaying, hypnotic feel decorated by a few slide guitar fills, while he delivers a characterful vocal, full of good phrasing, about how “It’s been a long old road to ruin / Daylight I will find”.  ‘Howlin’’ has an old-fashioned Delta blues feel, with prickling-and-pointing electric guitar over snappily shuffling drums, creating something jaunty and irresistible.  ‘Buried In The Hail’ itself is a brooding, atmospheric affair that combines restrained electric guitar and Martin’s gruffest vocal, rumbling away in the murk of a stormy night, in a manner akin to a distant cousin of Zeppelin’s ‘Bring It On Home’.  And ‘Lefty 2 Guns’ is absorbing blues storytelling, with a simple, looping guitar line, hesitant bass, and dragging drums, until Martin’s gritty guitar takes off into SRV-ish territory with some scurrying soloing.
Martin can pack a punch too when he wants to though, as on ‘Belfast Blues’, on which his dirty, fuzzy guitar describes a ringing, revolving figure over a stomping drum rhythm that gradually acquires more character as it develops into a driving shuffle, while Martin groans out the vocal and adds dashes of slide.  On ‘Unhinged’, meanwhile, he cranks out some barbed, spiky guitar with squeals of added emphasis, crunches into a classic three chord progression at the end of each verse, before the guitar and drums start slamming into each other with controlled aggression, as a precursor to our Dom goes off on a soloing jaunt with Celtic undertones.
In the midst of all this there’s also a startling, sui generis cover of the Patsy Cline hit ‘Crazy’, which sounds like it’s been relocated from Nashville to a smoky Parisian cellar, with just twinkling guitar notes to accompany Martin’s slow, Tom Waits-like vocal, eventually giving way to some Gary Moore-like electric guitar divertissements over splashes of drums.
It may sound from some of this like there’s nothing dramatic happening here.  No crackerjack electric guitar show-offery.  No bouts of epic, cinematic grandeur.  No wailing vocals.  And that’s true – but at the same time everything is happening.  Like some musical Jedi, Dom Martin casts a spell and draws you into his web.  Buried In The Hail is the sound of a special talent.
Buried In The Hail is out now on Forty Below Records.

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